‘Yahoo News Live’: Bernie Sanders on Paris, IS, refugees and more

Katie Couric
Global Anchor

By Alex Bregman

In an interview with Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric on “Yahoo News Live,” Democratic presidential candidate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders addressed questions about the blowback to accepting Syrian refugees in the United States in the wake of the Paris attacks, his foreign policy experience, the differences between him and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and controversy surrounding if and when he will give a planned speech on democratic socialism.

When asked about more than half of the nation’s governors saying they will not accept any refugees from Syria, Senator Sanders told Couric: “What we have got to be is not just strong and tough, but we have got to be smart.” Sanders continued: “I think in terms of the refugees, clearly it goes without saying that any refugee coming into this country has got to be vetted, but to simply say that when hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing Syria, are fleeing Afghanistan, that we or Europe or the Gulf region will turn our backs on those people, I don’t think that’s what America is about.”

On any concerns about the shift in focus on the campaign trail regarding foreign policy in the wake of the Paris attacks, Senator Sanders said: “Of course, focusing on ISIS is enormously important, and we have got to do that, but I disagree with people who say, ‘Oh, we can’t talk about the growing gap between the rich and the poor or the fact that we have a corrupt campaign finance system. We’re not going to talk about that.’ I don’t agree with that.” 

Couric also asked Sanders if we would be better off had Saddam Hussein remained in power. He replied: “Saddam Hussein was a brutal, disgusting tyrant, and the effort would’ve been how do you get rid of him? But to destabilize that region the way we did, to bring about that chaos and the incredible cost to us in terms of human life and trillions of dollars of expenditure, yes, we should not have undertaken that invasion.”

When asked to respond to those who say he’s not that strong on foreign policy, he told Couric: “Oh, really? Well, compared to whom? Which candidate voted [for] the biggest foreign policy blunder in the modern history of America, and let me give you a hint: It wasn’t Bernie Sanders. It was Hillary Clinton.”

He continued, “True, I was not a secretary of state for four years, I concede that. But I think if you check my record and the votes I have cast and what I have said, you’ll find that, in fact, we do have a lot of credibility in many foreign policy areas.”

When asked if he was offended by Hillary Clinton’s comments invoking 9/11 in the Democratic debate when discussing Wall Street donors, Sanders said, “I wouldn’t use the word ‘offensive.’ I found them a little bit silly and a little bit absurd.”

On whether or not he should be more aggressive in his campaign against Clinton, particularly around the issue of her character, as some have suggested: “What media likes is food fight … and I think that’s sad.”

Finally, Sanders disputed any debate within his campaign about the risks associated with giving a planned speech about democratic socialism. “I said I would, and if I said I would, I will.” When pressed again: “As soon as the schedule allows it, but it will be in a reasonably short period of time, and I look forward very much to doing that.”